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Film Studies 101
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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Christopher Walken
Brooke Adams
Tom Skerritt
Herbert Lom.
Directors
David Cronenberg.
Screenwriters
Jeffrey Boam.
Running Time
103 minutes

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The Dead Zone


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Plot
Johnny Smith awakens from a five-year coma to discover he has psychic abilities. After helping a small-town Sheriff catch a serial killer, Johnny is convinced that crusading politician Greg Stillson is a potential danger to the world.


Review

One of a wave of Stephen King adaptations from the early 1980s, this was a step towards the mainstream for weirdo auteur David Cronenberg.  It has some of that episodic ‘compressed miniseries’ feel which a lot of King pictures get stuck with (the book was later redone as a TV serial with Anthony Michael Hall) but still manages a lot of powerful material. 

Walken has one of his signature roles as stiff-legged outsider Johnny Smith, alienated by the loss of his entire life (his girlfriend Brooke Adams has married someone else) who foresees disasters wherever he goes.  There’s a mini-psycho picture as Smith helps the cops in King’s small town of Castle Rock root out the killer in their midst, which prompts the film’s few straight shock sequences (a scissors suicide, a mad performance from Colleen Dewhurst as the monster’s mother), but the dramatic meat of the piece comes when Johnny tangles with up-and-coming politico Stillson, a folksy homicidal maniac who now looks horribly like a young George W. Bush. 

Cronenberg gets a lot out of the wintery Canadian locations passed off as King’s haunted Maine, and works hard with his actors – weaving between the s-f/horror stuff is a great deal of underplayed emotion, especially in the heartbreaking business between Walken and the underrated Adams.  Familiar supporting players like Skerritt, Herbert Lom and Anthony Zerbe – who are usually asked to turn up and read their lines – get a little more meat, and rise to the occasion.  And West Wing fans who think Sheen ought to be President should check out his political villainy here.


Verdict
Cronenburg attempting a little mainstream with this Stephen King yarn and really pulling it off.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Dead Zone
Empire Star Rating

Dead Zone

I didnt know what to expect from this Cronenberg film. It started off standarly enough guy in car crash etc but from there on i loved it. I felt Walken's performance made a huge part of the film actually work, also the fim had a great plot with lots of cronenberg weirdness in it. Not Cronenbergs best but still a great film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by OMGWTFBBQ at 20:18, 03 July 2006 | Report This Post


RE: The Dead Zone

There seems to be two David Cronenbergs making movies, these days, Cronenberg the auteur(omead RingersashistenZthe Cronenberg who deals in more mainstream, but still grisly efforts(History of Violence adaptation of Stephen King's bestseller d Zoneitely falls into the latter. The story(adapted here by t Boys Lethal Weapon 2 Jeffrey Boam)concerns a schoolteacher implausably named John Smith(Christopher Walken), returning home after a date with fellow teacher Sarah(Brooke Adams), gets in... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Peter A. Quinn at 08:38, 29 April 2006 | Report This Post


RE: The Dead Zone

Absolutely loved this movie, played pitch perfect by Walken and improved on King's story(imo) -a rarity for any film. ... More

Posted by kasm at 08:22, 29 April 2006 | Report This Post



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